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Review

Mega Man 10 (WiiWare) Review

by April 6, 2010

For anyone over the age of, say, 12 or so, Mega Man 9 and its recently released sequel have provided a rather refreshing antidote to the increasingly confusing world of Battle Network and Star Force games. Especially in the case of those who grew up with the NES originals, these games represent nothing more than a confusing rash of brightly coloured boxes that seem to appear with frightening regularity, in stupefyingly numerous Pokémon-like variants, and feature characters that bear no resemblance to anything recognisably ’Mega Man-y’ with the exception of that guy in the helmet, and even then he’s not exactly classic blue bomber material.

Note to younger readers: this is what happens when you get old. Those of us who are old (that is, over the age of 25) find change confusing, and quite frustrating. It will become clear to you, as it is already to us, that nothing current (music, games, films, sexual partners) can come at all close to being as good as things were back in the old days and, oh boy, games these days make no sense with the millions of colours and the voices and characterisation and plot.

Mega Man 9 was a game designed to placate said old people. It’s filled with the awareness that the twitchy-eyed, badly-voiced anime cut scenes of Mega Man 8 simply didn’t work. It recognises that sometimes less is more. It knows that years of pointless sequels, and the ever-diminishing lack of fun they contained, had turned the series into something that barely even captured the interest of most gamers. Most importantly, though, all of this was filtered through an awareness of game design’s innovations over the past twenty or so years.

So how does one tack a sequel onto that without falling into the same traps the series did the first time around? That’s a difficult question. Certainly, the balance between submitting to demand for sequels immediately and not flooding the market is something Capcom in particular have always struggled with (yeah, looking at you, Street Fighter series). Not to mention the fact that the entire point of Mega Man 9 was that it stripped back all the pointless additions and sought out the successful core of the gameplay. That brings up another balance issue, wherein it’s necessary to bring something new to the series without compromising that back-to-basics approach.

Fortunately, Mega Man 10 does bring a few new ideas to the table. The most notable is the ability to play through in easy mode – an important response to one of the biggest complaints issued against the previous game; that is, it was a little hard for anyone who hadn’t spent an entire childhood trudging through the NES titles. This mode adds floating platforms over most of the game’s pits and drops, decreases damage from enemies, and provides health-restoring items prior to boss fights. For anyone who wanted to get into Mega Man 9 but found it too punishing, it’ll no doubt be a real blessing.

There’s also the ability to play as Proto Man right from the start, rather than having to pay for DLC for the pleasure. Though he takes more damage than Mega Man, his shield and ability to slide and charge shots tips things more towards the easy side.

Of course, there’s still the normal and hard modes waiting, and very few of the bosses are pushovers even in easy mode. Although, that said, their weaknesses tend to be a little more rigidly set than in the previous game; there’s far more obviously set progression if you choose to take that advantage. The level design, on the whole, isn’t exactly a huge step up from Mega Man 9. However, the final Wily fortress stages are an absolute joy, and provide a fittingly fiendish finale for the game. There’s some inventive branching paths, and some delightfully devious platforming.

Sometimes, it’s a little hard to shake the feeling that this is dangerously close to being just another Mega Man sequel. It looks and sounds great, of course, but the 8-bit styling doesn’t quite have the same impact or freshness that it did when Mega Man 9 was released. If it weren’t for the addition of easy mode, there would probably be little in the way of series progression.

Ultimately though, when you’re talking about the game being ’just another sequel’ to something as excellent as Mega Man 9, it feels like splitting hairs. Even if Mega Man 10wasn’t throwing in a few new things, it would still rank as one of the best platform games of the last few years. It’s gorgeously solid in its controls, rarely feels cheap and offers plenty of value for money. What more could you ask for, really?

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Alistair Wallis

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